Jack Torrance -
Wendy Torrance -
Danny Torrance -
OTHER STEPHEN KING SHOWS
Salem's Lot '79
Salem's Lot '04
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
OTHER HORROR SHOWS
Every winter, the Overlook Hotel closes down and moves out with only a single janitor and his family left to keep the boiler going and repair minor damage. This year it is recovering alcoholic playwright Jack Torrance, his sexy wife Wendy and cute as a button, but psychic son Danny. Jack and Wendy's marriage is suffering from the aftermath of Jack's drinking and the occasion when he broke Danny's arm whilst under the influence. The job at the Overlook is his last chance to put things right and save the relationship. Danny, though, is a special sort of boy with the ability to see things, things that have happened, might happen or that are happening some way distant. The hotel's cook who also has these powers (though not as strong) calls it 'the shining' and tells Danny that the things he sees in the Overlook can't hurt him if he looks away and counts to ten. The Overlook, however, might disagree.
THE SHINING is one of horrormeister Stephen King's most celebrated books and the film adaptation from Stanley Kubrick is one of the few really good adaptations of King's work. Stephen King doesn't seem to think so, however, and so has written this three part mini-series reworking the story for the small screen.
This episode is the 'getting to know you' episode, setting up the scene and introducing the characters. It's a slow, measured build up, but one that is effective because we get to know Jack, Wendy and Danny. There are perhaps a few too many flashbacks (we don't need to see all of the scenes from their past, verbal descriptions would have been just as effective) and the appearances of Tony, Danny's not quite so imaginary friend are decidedely less than scary.
We also get to know the Overlook Hotel, one of the main characters. As it's early days in the tale the creepy events that we see are small, out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye events that could be nothing, but are shown to be clearly supernatural. Swings push themselves, doors swing shut on their own and a nest full of dead wasps suddenly comes back to life. As the episode comes to a close fires are lighting themselves, rooms start their own parties and chairs don't want to stay on tables.
This, though is about the characters. Steven Weber looks the everyman part and gives Jack the rough edges of a recovering alcoholic. Rebecca De Moenay does her best to look like the wife next door and pulls it off quite well. Courtland Mead is as cute as a button as Danny, but isn't able to cope with the demanding scenes that the story demands of him. His scenes with Dick Halloran, the cook who explains about the titular 'shining' (the mental powers that allow Danny to know things he couldn't know and to see things that have yet to happen) explain the plot, but don't have real resonance.
The scene is set, however, and the promise is that the second episode will ramp up the chills.Top
As the snow falls and the hotel gets cut off, Jack becomes fascinated with the hotel's bloody background to the exclusion of all else, including his play, and the marriage deteriorates. Danny becomes fascinated by the voices coming out of Room 417 and decides that he has to show the things in there that he's not afraid of them. With every avenue of escape now cut off, the things inside the Overlook attack. Something evil is afoot and it's after both Danny and Jack.
King's novel is about one man's slow descent into madness, but Jack Torrance in this version seems to be rushing headlong into it. Almost as soon as the snow starts to fall, Jack goes haywire. Steven Weber does a pretty good job as the man coming apart at the seams, but the uneven pacing of the script means that he is forced to veer between seemingly normal and completely barking with upsetting speed and frequency. One second he's scared out of his mind at what he is seeing and the next he is acting like it was never there. This might be normal denial for an alcholic, but it doesn't really come off as believable behaviour here.
Rebecca De Mornay gets an easier ride as Wendy who tries her hand at sexy, but who also has to deal with a man who is clearly over the edge. She loves him, but she is torn between that, fear and confusion. She believes that her son has psychic powers, but doesn't connect those with his father who has the same powers, but less obviously, leaving him open to the influence of the hotel. Courtland Mead finds that the more demanding part required of him this episode as he is attacked, suffers shock and is generally abused is beyond his acting abilities.
The emphasis is still more on creepy than gory with the honourable exception of the dead woman in the bath in Room 217 who is nicely slimy and the sustained atmospheric build up is generally effective, as are the snow effects, but the animated topiary animals are a literary conceit that it is just impossible to make scary on screen despite director Mike Garris's best efforts.Top
Jack has gone completely off the rails and is under the influence of the Overlook Hotel. As his sanity ebbs away, the ghosts in the hotel become more and more real. A long dead party gets under swing once again and there is booze for Jack drink. Before long, he is looking to teach both his wife and his son a lesson with a croquet mallet to the head. The only hope lies in a psychic cry for help that Danny puts out to Dick Halloran.
The time for subtlety is over and it's time for the thrill ride that is the final act of THE SHINING. In one corner there is Jack, drunk, lost in visions of past glory and future belonging and a pretty vicious croquet mallet. In the other corner is Wendy. Her choice of weapon is a big carving knife, though she's also not above using a wooden croquet ball or razor blade if the need arises. It's all out guerilla warfare which means a lot of wandering around empty hotel corridors waiting for the shock around the corner, the sudden outbreaks of violence and the rapidly approaching crescendo.
Steven Weber gets to throw caution to the wind and go way over the top as mad Jack, but thanks to the excellent make-up, mostly aping the blood that Wendy's croquet ball spills down his face, he is a genuinely scary presence. It also really helps to have not seen the movie version as there are scenes close enough, but not quite the same that are perfectly effective in their own right, but jar by not being quite right in the memory. Rebecca De Mornay hovers between scared and defiant and copes with both well. She also makes the damage that her husband wreaks on her look realistic, shocking and very, very painful.
The script does fall down in that Jack has Wendy, Danny and Halloran all at his mercy at least once and yet never manages to finish off the job, usually distracted by the ghosts whose bidding he is actually doing. If he's focussed for just a few seconds then it would all have been over and the ghosts would have won. Even so, there are plenty of jump moments, plenty of real scares and some real tension in between the bouts of violence. This is what Stephen King does well and the adaptation makes the most of it. It even manages to be quite poignant as the final moments approach.
Whoever it was that thought the 10 years later postscript was a good idea really ought to be made to take the croquet medicine, however.Top
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